Joan Fitzgerald

Joan Fitzgerald is professor of urban and public policy at Northeastern University. She is the author of Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development, and is working on a new book, Greenovation.

Recent Articles

Help Wanted -- Green

There are good jobs to be had in environmentally friendly development, and construction jobs are just the beginning. Thousands of jobs are in products that go into green buildings. The job potential in renewable energy production is even more impressive. The Renewable Energy Policy Project estimates that producing 10 percent of the nation's electricity with renewable sources would create 381,000 jobs producing the component parts of the systems. Already, renewable energy (biomass, solar, wind, geothermal) employ more than 115,000 people directly. These new jobs more than compensate for ongoing job loss in the coal and oil industries as clean forms of energy replace polluting ones. Renewable energy is labor-intensive. It generates more jobs in construction, manufacturing, and installation per megawatt of power than coal and natural gas. These jobs start with research and development. They produce an array of goods and services from renewable energy itself to products made from high-...

Getting Serious About Good Jobs

How to generate more good jobs for Americans? Conventionally, policy-makers and economists give great weight to two strategies -- education and economic development. Presumably, a better educated workforce will command higher pay. And economic development will generate more jobs, one hopes good jobs. But there are limits to what these two approaches can accomplish, given how they are practiced through flawed government policies in the face of new global conditions. Education per se no longer guarantees good jobs. There is a glut of liberal arts graduates. Global trade has put tens of millions of American workers, however well-trained, into direct competition with low-paid Asian and other third-world workers. In many occupations, increased training makes sense only if we upgrade the character of the jobs. Otherwise, a nurse aide or day-care worker can study more about her craft, but still earn dismal wages. America in fact had a much more equal distribution of income half a century ago...

Raising the Bar

Lilliana Diaz has operated a child-care business in her Lowell, Massachusetts, home for more than four years. Often rising before dawn and putting in 10-hour days, she guides eight toddlers through a busy schedule of reading, playtime, meals, and more. To get to this point, Diaz completed a 63-hour training course, then earned a Childhood Development Associate (CDA) credential, and is now working toward an associate's degree. But because Massachusetts, like 32 other states, does not reimburse family child-care providers based on their education level, she makes the same as a provider who has just 15 hours of course work -- the bare minimum required by the state. The same is true for workers in most child-care centers; there is little pay differentiation even for workers with college degrees. In both family day-care settings (a small number of children in the provider's home) and child-care centers (more formal and larger), the quality of care is more custodial than developmental. Only...

Pathways to Good Jobs

Low-wage jobs cause stagnant living standards only when they are dead-end jobs. Deliberately designed occupational pathways can enable people to move up as they acquire more skills: Entry-level wages may be low, but people advance beyond them. A plumbing apprentice, a junior associate in a law firm, a medical intern or a news clerk at a metropolitan paper are all low-paid workers on the first rung of a well-paid career. To a very limited extent, career ladders also exist for lower-status jobs in services and manufacturing. A small number of nurse aides advance to nurses, day-care workers to teachers, chambermaids to concierges, tellers to loan officers and factory assemblers to skilled machinists. So why not extend this model to the rest of society? Many career-ladder initiatives are being implemented today by community colleges and organizations, unions and government agencies, as well as employers and employer groups. But can this promising approach offset the broader trends in the...

Caring for Children as a Career

H igh-quality child care is the biggest missing element in welfare-to-work efforts. Despite additional funding under welfare reform, the care available to most low-income women and their children is usually custodial and unreliable. Many former welfare recipients themselves work providing child care -- at low wages in unstable employment. So upgrading child care would actually serve three related goals: It would provide a key work support for mothers. It would improve outcomes of at-risk children. And it would raise the earnings and career horizons of many people formerly on welfare, serving as a model of how to upgrade low-wage work. Unfortunately, Congress neither acknowledges the need nor provides adequate funds. The 1996 welfare law consolidated four federal child-care programs into block grants to states under the Child Care Development Fund. Total federal and state spending on child care roughly doubled between 1996 and 2000. In 2001 the fund committed $4.5 billion to child care...

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